cyn·​ic | \ ˈsi-nik How to pronounce cynic (audio) \

Definition of cynic

1 : a faultfinding captious critic especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest Of course, there will always be cynics when companies make good-faith apologies and seek to follow through. — Andrew Ross Sorkin
2 capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from cynic

cynic adjective

Did You Know?

The ancient Greece school of philosophers known as Cynics was founded by Antisthenes, a contemporary of Plato. Antisthenes is said to have taught at a gymnasium outside Athens called the Kynosarges, from which the name of the school, kynikoi, literally, “doglike ones,” may be derived. On the other hand, the name is most closely associated with the most famous Cynic philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope. Diogenes rejected social conventions and declared that whatever was natural and easy could not be indecent and therefore can and should be done in public. This shamelessness earned him the Greek epithet ho kyōn, “the dog.” In English, however, cynic and cynical have more to do with distrust of motives than shamelessness.

Examples of cynic in a Sentence

He's too much of a cynic to see the benefits of marriage. A cynic might think that the governor visited the hospital just to gain votes. Reporters who cover politics often become cynics.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The rot, in this reading, started with Obama, a professorial cynic of the West, and has culminated in Trump, whose abandonment of the American idea marks a break in world history. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "America’s Uniquely Humiliating Moment," 24 June 2020 And yet this claim of moral equivalence is no longer the smear of a foreign cynic but the view of the president of the United States himself. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, "America’s Uniquely Humiliating Moment," 24 June 2020 Granted, Tildy is a cynic and a nihilist, but as Kongoli devastates the U.S., her take on human frailty is borne out. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Strange Comfort of Reading a Pandemic Novel," 13 May 2020 Only the house cynic, Arnie Burton’s splendidly vexed Apemantus — a sort of Grecian Fran Lebowitz — appears to grasp the unholy nature of Timon’s bargain. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "‘Timon of Athens’ is tricky Shakespeare. A fearless director gets it right.," 25 Feb. 2020 As the historian Ulrich Lehner’s book The Catholic Enlightenment (2016) showed, alongside the cynics and sloths, serious Catholic intellectuals of the period attempted to do justice to Catholic tradition and modern understanding. David P. Deavel, National Review, "Catholicism Confronts Modernity," 24 Oct. 2019 Very quickly, very naturally, the romantic-cynic in me melted. Alyssa Shelasky, New York Times, "Surviving the First Trimester, With and Without a Man," 15 Apr. 2020 Perry had one message for cynics (in case there were any). Thatiana Diaz,, "Katy Perry Looks So Different After Her Latest Hair Makeover," 24 Feb. 2020 One option, of course, is to simply steer clear of the cynics. Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work, "The secret to dealing with cynics at work," 24 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cynic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of cynic

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for cynic

Middle French or Latin, Middle French cynique, from Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos, literally, like a dog, from kyn-, kyōn dog — more at hound

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cynic

Time Traveler for cynic

Time Traveler

The first known use of cynic was in 1542

See more words from the same year

Statistics for cynic

Last Updated

12 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cynic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cynic


How to pronounce cynic (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cynic

: a person who has negative opinions about other people and about the things people do especially : a person who believes that people are selfish and are only interested in helping themselves

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on cynic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cynic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cynic

Spanish Central: Translation of cynic

Nglish: Translation of cynic for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about cynic

Comments on cynic

What made you want to look up cynic? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!